(NOLA Public Schools photo)

The board of Lusher Charter School appears poised to formally appoint a board renaming committee one month after suspending the work of its so-called “renaming study group,” which drew criticism from the school community for privately whittling down new school name suggestions and was accused of violating state transparency law. 

The formal committee will be subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law. That committee will operate in stark contrast to the Uptown charter school’s lawyer’s previous contention that its renaming “study group” was not subject to state Open Meeting Law, despite being appointed by the board chair and reporting to the board.

The board will consider appointing a formal committee at its meeting Thursday, according to its agenda.

Lusher, like many schools, is going through a renaming process spurred by the Orleans Parish School Board’s own renaming of dozens of buildings named for Confederate sympathizers and separatists. Lusher’s namesake — Robert Mills Lusher — was a Confederate official and segregationist. The Orleans Parish School Board has already renamed the building where the school is housed, which it owns, that was named for Lusher. But because New Orleans charter schools operate independently of OPSB, that did not change the name of the school itself. 

Lusher kicked off that process at a Sept. 30 board meeting when it voted to change the school’s name and opened a name nomination process. But many members of the school community were surprised when the “study group” released a list of 11 names for consideration, including one that would preserve the name “Lusher.”

At a November meeting, where the board had planned to select a new name, many members of the school community spoke out against the option that preserved “Lusher” and many asked for a more transparent naming process. The board ultimately decided to hold off on a final vote and the board president reappointed a second study group. 

A few days later, attorney Scott Sternberg sent a demand letter on behalf of several parents who asked to remain anonymous, accusing the Lusher board of violating the state Open Meetings Law by handing over much of the renaming process to the “study group” that, despite being appointed by the board president, met in private. It demanded that the Lusher board open up future meetings of the study group to the public. If it fails to, the letter said, the board will face legal action.

That prompted Lusher to suspend the work of its study group until the full board could meet again. 

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Sternberg said he was glad to see the board had the item on their public agenda.

“The board is following the law by noticing an agenda that says they will appoint a committee. I applaud the fact that they were willing to review their prior actions and make sure that what they are doing complies with the law,” he said.

“In addition to the fact that having a public committee to rename or not rename this school is just a better idea — because more people will get to participate and that is what our Open Meetings Law is all about.”

The board is slated to meet virtually on Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...